The Super Rugby season is upon us again. An earlier start to the season is just one of many changes to the 2020 campaign, with the competition moved forward by three weeks to avoid the international break. Each week, NZME's resident rugby writers will provide their tips for the weekend ahead and highlight one game that stands out from the rest for the round. This week, we look at the Chiefs' match against the Crusaders in Hamilton on Saturday night.
Fresh off a strong second half comeback against the Blues, the Chiefs will welcome the Crusaders with firepower back in the starting line up.
Chiefs coach Warren Gatland has opted to run Aaron Cruden and Anton Lienert-Brown in the starting side at first and second five-eighth respectively, while Damian McKenzie has shaken off an injury to return at fullback.
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McKenzie won't play the full 80 minutes however, with Gatland recognising the need to slowly re-introduce him.
"He did some speed work last week and the groin tightened up. He probably could have got through last week but the message that I've been saying to the players is that I feel like my job here is to do whatever I can to get these guys in the All Blacks – to not rush them back or put them under any pressure.
"That was my message to Damian – what have we got to do in the next two or three months to get you back in the All Blacks. We don't want to burn the candle too early; we want to time things and make sure they're going well in April and May."
The Chiefs will be without injuryed All Blacks props Nepo Laulala and Angus Ta'avao, with Atu Moli - yet another All Blacks prop in the Chiefs squad - starting alongside Aidan Ross in the front row.
The injury bug has bitten the Crusaders too, with No10 Richie Mo'unga ruled out of the contest. In a surprising move, the Crusaders will run fullback David Havili in the No10 jersey, shfting Will Jordan to fullback and welcoming back Sevu Reece and George Bridge on the wings. Leicester Faingaanuku moves to the bench. In the pack, Codie Taylor and Joe Moody also return to the starting side.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said if it was a final Mo'unga could have played, but being round two there was no need to risk his star first five-eighth.
"We want to look after him for the long-term. It was a call that we made for him – just look after yourself."
Highlanders v Sharks
Brumbies v Rebels
Chiefs v Crusaders
Waratahs v Blues
Lions v Reds
Stormers v Bulls
Jaguares v Hurricanes
Alex Chapman (Radio Sport journalist): Highlanders, Brumbies, Crusaders, Waratahs, Lions, Stormers, Jaguares
Martin Devlin (Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport host): Highlanders, Brumbies, Chiefs, Waratahs, Lions, Stormers, Hurricanes
Reuben Mama (Radio Sport journalist): Highlanders, Brumbies, Chiefs, Blues, Lions, Stormers, Jaguares
Patrick McKendry (NZ Herald sports journalist): Highlanders, Brumbies, Crusaders, Waratahs, Lions, Stormers, Jaguares
Liam Napier (NZ Herald sports journalist): Highlanders, Brumbies, Chiefs, Blues, Lions, Stormers, Jaguares
Josh Price (Radio Sport journalist): Highlanders, Brumbies, Chiefs, Waratahs, Lions, Stormers, Jaguares
Christopher Reive (NZ Herald sports journalist): Sharks, Brumbies, Chiefs, Waratahs, Lions, Stormers, Jaguares
Elliott Smith (Radio Sport journalist): Highlanders, Brumbies, Crusaders, Blues, Lions, Stormers, Jaguares
Lachlan Waugh (Radio Sport journalist): Highlanders, Rebels, Crusaders, Blues, Lions, Stormers, Jaguares
Nigel Yalden (Radio Sport rugby editor): Highlanders, Brumbies, Chiefs, Blues, Lions, Stormers, Jaguares
Chapman, Napier and Reive - 6/7
McKendry, Waugh and Yalden - 5/7
Devlin, Mama, Price and Smith - 4/7